Issue: #351

Empire of the Sun,
Bow Wow,
The Amazing Rhythm Aces,
Jessica Lea Mayfield,
Shooter Jennings,
Melissa Morgan,
Born From Pain,
Marianne Faithfull,
Reggae Around The World,
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses,
Big B,
Sara Wasserman,
Stardeath and White Dwarfs,
Patrick Watson,
Slim Thug,
Vienna Teng,
Michael Occhipinti,
Jonas Brothers

  • Abbattack "Audioscam," Austrailian Sun
  • Paul Rishell & Annie Raines "A Night in Woodstock," Mojo Rodeo/Rishell
  • Matthew Stubbs "Soul Bender," Vizztone/Redeye
  • Trick Tirck "The Villian," Koch/Time
  • Ben Bedford "Land of the Shadows," Hopeful Sky

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U2 -
No Line on the Horizon


No Line on the Horizon, after all is said and done, actually just feels like a gentle train wreck. It doesn't actually hurt to listen to, no bruises to speak of, but by the end it feels as though you just went through some traumatic event with no real ability to describe what it was. This is contemporary U2 to a T.

The album runs in line with U2's twelve other works, coming to a plateau with this one. From How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb to here serves of little consequence. Recording quality, the band's bag of tricks, and Bono's obnoxious whining...all of it feels as nothing more than a continuation of their last line of works. Still the spacey hook-filled alternative rock that we have expected, but failing with anything we didn't.

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Empire of the Sun -
Walking On A Dream


Australian electronic band Empire of the Sun really should just be a movie instead. Their album cover is halfway between Captain EO and the Dark Crystal, with the perfect addition of the cgi Tiger and glowing orb in not-Sigfried-or-Roy's hand.

Musically is unfortunately not quite as perfect, but is still fantastic. Catchy and NOT electro-trash (which is all I've ever asked for!), Walking on a Dream runs with pretty keyboard melodies, simplistic drum machines, and endless amounts of falsetto chorus hooks and goth groove. For anyone who likes great pop music.

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Bow Wow -
New Jack CitY II

Positive/Maudlin Brand Company/Columbia/Sony

Creativity is pretty heavily lacking in New Jack CitYII, but that's nothing new in hip-hop. Bow Wow's flow's still solid, even if his apparent idolatry of hip-hop has influenced him to be one of the most stream-line MC's to make it big. Maybe he just ran out of ideas, influencing his decision to stop making music after this record, or maybe its his realization that it's less fun than when you are 14 years old.

***Best Album Of The Week***

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The Amazing Rhythm Aces -
Their Very Best

Varese Sarabande/Fontana/Sony

Quiet, easy listening rock-country-reggae. Think a third-rate Jimmy Buffett, but with less of the insane LSD delusional tirades, which was the most redeeming point of Buffett to begin with. The music isn't bad, per say; rather, it just has no rewarding qualities to speak of.

***Shelton's Single of the Week: "Third Rate Romance"***

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Jessica Lea Mayfield -
With Blasphemy So Heartfelt

Polymer/RED/Thirty Tigers

Mayfield proves that simplicity does not mean boring, and that being a beautiful hipster does not mean you have to write awful music. Stripped down and minimalistic folk/country music with a certain indie approach that brings out all of the best parts of Mayfield's songs.

Musically, she relies on her voice and guitar, with minor accompaniment from heavily reverbed tones and minimal percussion, but used sparingly enough to not take anything away from Mayfields perfect vocal abilities. This is one of the most heartfelt records of the year.


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Shooter Jennings -
Bad Magick: The Best of Shooter Jennings & The .357's

Universal South

Upbeat singer-songwriter country hits coming straight from Jennings "Best Of" album (which is definitely a bit odd, considering he's been releasing records for less than five years) is a surprising mix of great songwriting and country twang.

Lyrically powerful, the songs of Jennings flow stronger and more thought out than most records we hear today, and especially for country, this marks the list as something highly worth noticing.

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Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap


The best rock and roll band of all time playing the best music ever made. Yes, more AC/DC represses are always in order. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap carried "Big Balls", probably one of their best songs, and by far the best song on the album. IF you love scratchy voices over the best guitar lines in human history, then get this record.

***Shelton's Second Single of the Week: "Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap"***


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Melissa Morgan -
Until I Met You


Morgan plays the smoky lounge-jazz persona up to the brink; with songs like "Cool Cool Daddy", Morgan shows just how much she and her backing band take in all that the endangered culture represents.

Songs are a diagram to a T, but played superbly well. Soulful? Yes. Interesting? You bet. Original? Not so much, but still: when it's good, it's good.

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Born From Pain -

Metal Blade

Metal-hardcore crossover band Born From Pain are pushing the boundaries between the two genres, finally coming into their own sound. On previous releases, it sounded like they listened to a Bolt Thrower album right after a Madball LP and thought "Let's do this, but better!".

Now, they took that idea, and just decided to cut both bands out and do their own thing. It's great. Metallish riffing behind hardcore shout outs makes Survival the crossover record of the year.


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Marianne Faithfull -
Easy Come, Easy Go


The subtitle for this record is "12 Songs for Music Lovers", and I think the emphasis was intended on the "Lovers". 12 exquisite love songs, sung through Faithfull's low, gruff, but simultaneously emotionally hitting voice, which leads the rest of the jazz-inspired soft-rock.

The album reminds me of a more tame version of 80's punk legends Poison Girls, especially so in the later quarter of their career, proving, yet again, that great sounds transcend genres.

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Various Artists -
Reggae Around The World


Reggae is one of my least favorite genres in human history, but somehow Putumayo manages to find the artists that defy all logic. Reggae Around The World is, as expected, the best of the best: Blekbala Mujik, Burning Spear, Ernest Ranglin, Peter Rowan, and others are compiled onto a collection that documents the music just as much from its country of origin to its actual product.

Every country has a slight shift in style, creating a reggae album that doesn't sound like one identical song after another. Give it a try; Putumayo hasn't been wrong yet!

***Shelton's Single of the Week: "Secret,"***


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Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses -
Roadhouse Sun

Lost Highway/Universal

I am openly not an avid country listener. I certainly like a lot, and wouldn't say that I dislike most of it, but for the most part it just isn't my thing. I don't go home and listen to a country CD or make a playlist involving more than a few songs here and there.

The exception to this rule is Roadhouse Sun, a tale of psychological anguish through the voice of Ryan Bingham. I truly think depression makes better music, and this is a perfect example.

A good majority of the tracks are about one hardship or another, and all eloquently portrayed with raw emotion. He sings straight-forward, which equates to an incredibly gruff voice that carries all of his turmoil from song to song.

There's a strong western influence here, and maybe even a stronger folk flair lingering in there with him. The music all has a driving feel to it, and he accents his singing with a sort of swinging guitar rhythm. Original and interesting, as well as heartfelt? This may be the first!

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Anti-Flag -
The People Or The Gun


Anti-Flag's brand of politically charged over-produced pop-punk has served them well until this point, though that may change. Songs are impressively boring for the band, and that is saying a lot coming from someone who has bought every album of theirs since '98.

The album keeps the same politics as always ("The Economy is Suffering...Let It Die", though I'm not entirely convinced they really understand what a "dead economy" looks like), but the music is just lacking. The hooks are missing, and interesting song structures have been pawned for a watered down Dropkick Murphy's back-catalogue.


***Shelton's Third Single of the Week: "You Are Fired (Take This Job, Ah, Fuck It)"***

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Big B -
American Underdog

Suburban Noize/SCH

So this brand of nu-hip-hop (think Kottenmouth Kings) usually makes me want to take van Gogh to the next level. Big B, despite myself, is actually not bad. I take that back: he's actually really good, with bad taste.

His flow is better than 90% of the records I get in here. His rhymes, while stupid in terms of content, are pretty genius in terms of lyricism. And, even though I hate this faux-"Red Neck Pride" publicity stunt that seems to be the rage in these scenes, this is totally good.

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Sara Wasserman -
Solid Ground

That Other Label/Pacific Coast Jazz

Wasserman does what she does as well as anyone could possibly hope for. Poppy-jazz, coordinated around archetypal-but-still-solid melodies wraps the album's genius-nature around its straightforwardness. The album is fun, and solemn, and doesn't jerk the listener around for a second.


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Stardeath and White Dwarfs -
Selections from the Album: The Birth

Warner Bros

The singer of this band is the nephew of Wayne Coyne, front man for The Flaming Lips. This is all the explanation you could possibly need. Weird, psychedelic-tripped-out rock music. Hook-driven, slightly-odd, and definitely enhanced by drugs, Stardeath and White Dwarfs are another catchy outcome from the reclamation of the '70s, for better or for worse.

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Patrick Watson -
Wooden Arms

Secret City/Factor/Canada

Watson's band, which can hardly be characterized into a single genre, is somewhere between noise, pop music, indie rock, and classical. Radiohead on downers, being paid to write a movie score.

The album, needless to say, is still beautiful, and carries from one track to the next without any jerks or uncomfortable transitions: exclusively well thought out and well written compositions on here. Highly recommended.

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Slim Thug -
Boss of all Bosses


I have a soft-spot for gangster rap. In the last five years I've probably heard the same in actual records. Slim Thug luckily takes in the number "five" spot in that list. The model use of high and low digital beats, somewhat cheesy-but-works choruses, and lazy flow that just shows how hard the MC is. Boss of all Bosses is as perfect as it ever is.


(created by the original NYC D.J. Jocko, 1955)

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Vienna Teng -
Inland Territory


Beautiful minimalist compositions of Vienna Teng is Suzanne Vega reimagined: with no more than the simplistic electronic beats and vocal effects, and some amazingly breath-taking piano work. Catchy, fun, and genuinely respectable pop music, I'd say anyone looking for dreamy pop in the summer heat, this will cool you right off.

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Michael Occhipinti -
The Sicillian Jazz Project

High Romance/Canada/True North

Opening with a classical-style drone, resembling contemporary composers ala Schoenberg, Occhipiniti and band then kicks in hard. Latin-influenced jazz, but played to a par that is rarely heard here at JSI. The compositions are more cyclical, more interesting, and...wait, is that a catchy melody? In a jazz song? Unbelievable.

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Jonas Brothers -
A Little Bit Longer

Phily Mack/Write Entertainment/Hollywood

I have a hard time listening to this album without thinking about the South Park episode revolving around this band's work, virtually ruining it. The album almost does it by itself, but unfortunately it serves as the World Record holder for the Poppiest and Catchiest recordings of all time.

Straight forward rock, with obnoxious over-produced vocal lines, and everything you would expect from a factory-made rock-personality band. If you want something that will never, ever get out of your head, take a B-line for this cheese-ball of an album.


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Artist: Janis Ian

Song: Baby, I've Been Thinking

Come to my door, baby. Face is clean shining

Black as night, My mother went to answer, you

know that you looked so fine, Now I could

understand your tears and your shame, She

called you boy instead of your name, When she

wouldn't let you inside, When she turned and

said, "But honey, he's not your kind."

She says I can't see you anymore,

baby, can't see you anymore.

Walk me down to school, baby, everybody's acting

deaf and blind. Until they turn and say,

"Why don't you stick to your own kind?" My teachers

all laugh, their smirking stares, Cutting deep

down in our affairs. Preachers of equality.

Think they believe it, why won't they just let us be?

They say I can't see you anymore,
baby, Can't
see you anymore.

One of these days I'm gonna stop my listening,

gonna raise my head up high. One of these days

I'm gonna raise my glistening wings and fly

But that day will have to wait for a while. Baby,

I'm only society's child. When we're older things

may change. But for now this is the way
must remain.

I say, I can't see you anymore, baby,
Can't see
you anymore, no.
Don't want to see you any
more, baby.

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